Dickens’s nightmare: dreams, memory and trauma

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This article considers the role of stress in nineteenth-century literature and culture as both a catalyst to, and a symptom of, troubled sleep. Taking the figure of Charles Dickens as my principal case study, I investigate Dickens’s fictional and non-fictional explorations of sleep as a space and time where traumatic memories might be relived and repeated, where grief and longing might be articulated, and, finally, where guilt and loss may give rise to sentimental visions of possible future reunions. The model of stress depicted here is that resulting from trauma, which manifests in later life as a psychological disturbance affecting sleep. For Dickens, I will argue, the state of the mind as it was emerging from sleep was fundamentally
associated with human mortality and fragility, and it facilitated the possibility of crossing between different temporalities and states of being, while positing a kind of threshold to the past, the future, and the dead.
Original languageEnglish
Article number20190076
JournalInterface Focus
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 17 Apr 2020


  • Childhood
  • Dickens
  • Dreams
  • Memory
  • Trauma
  • haunting


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